Ashland State Park

Ella knows this place, is excited to get out of the car…so many other dogs to play with…pass the yellow gate, and the leash is off….Ella runs in circles, greets a chocolate lab puppy, keeps pace with her, greets the lab’s older friend, a white muzzled brown mixed breed dog…Ella moves on, keeps her nose to the ground until she finds her next friend.

Walk down the hill to the lake side, see the ice fishermen coming up the hill, black buckets in hand, watch the crew of yellow labs playing on the snow covered beach……Ella runs fast circles around them, no other dog catching up with her….large circles, the kind of running she needs, always circling back to me….

40 degrees, a February heat wave, perfect weather for human and canine feet to crunch across the thin layer of snow that covers the floor of the woods….

Follow the curve of the lake toward the dam…take careful steps on the ridge, look for places to carefuly edge down to the flatter paths, but Ella is burdened by none of this…she flies and flies and circles back to me.

There must have been twenty dogs to greet today, at least twenty…a slender, tall, tan Ridgeback in a loose fitting jacket, her small, sinewy, non-descript brown friend….a big, thick chested silver lab…single and paired dogs walking with single and paired, two legged friends.

Look at the snow covered trees, the man walking confidently across the ice, and the people who say they are afraid to let their dogs off-leash because they don’t want them to go on the ice…but there’s danger in that too:  a puppy tangled up in another dog’s leash  yelps, and when I look, I see the break, the way the puppy’s carpus and foot flop in the wrong direction, a distal humeral break.

We are out here, far away from anything I could use to help the puppy.  No black bag in my trunk, no pain meds, nothing to use as a splint.  Her owner picks her up to carry her back up the hill, and I wonder what emergency clinic they will take her to on this Sunday afternoon.

Ella runs, runs, runs, exactly what a beagle needs.  She doesnt know the risks.  I do.  It’s worth the risks, every minute out here, every breath of clean air, every flop of her Dumbo ears.


One young dog sleeping…rain, drizzle, a January spat….tennis balls to chase…a cot to sleep on…dreams of spring, of travels….silent clinic next door, ten steps away…a bicycle dormant.

Wrentham Dog Park

She can smell if before she sees it, and begins her happy bark near the stop light at the center of town.  By the time we reach the flashing yellow light where I turn to get to the fenced cow pasture that is now a dog park, Ella is bouncing from front seat to back seat and then to the front seat again, pressing her nose against the vent on the dash of the car.  She can probably tell how many dogs are there before I even turn onto the rugged dirt path to the parking area.

There’s a big hole in the outer gate, so Ella is inside the entry way before I am so use caution if you go.

As soon as she if off leash, she is running huge circles, running like the wind.  Cliche but true.  Soon a pair of black and white dogs twice her size are joining her in a game of chase.

“I’m getting dizzy watching,” their owner says, and I am too.

This is a great park for anyone who has fond memories of living on a farm or visiting a farm.  I am still in suburban Massachusetts, but I feel a little bit like I have been transported back home to the Midwest.  Nothing but a wire fence separates this broad space of canine running room from the fields beyond its boundaries.  Most of the dog owners here walk on the narrow path the follows the fence down one side of the field and up the other.

Bring you own water, although there may be some to share in the bowls near the benches and picnic tables or in the jugs others have left behind.

“It’s great isn’t it?” the dad of Ella’s two new companions says.  “Like letting toddlers run around.  They sure will sleep well at the end of the day.”

I watch Ella run, her ears flapping like Dumbo’s, glad for this stop on our way back and forth between our two homes.

There’s snow out there

Ella lifts her head from sleep, listens to the sound of the snowblower, cocks her had, lifts a floppy ear.  I wonder if she remembers it from last year.  The first time she saw snow, she ran in circles around the small tress in the front yard, leaped like a rabbit in and out of it.  Today, after she woke me up to take her outside at 4:00, she stood in the doorway of the mudroom, felt the wind and saw the snow, and asked to stay inside.  When I insisted that she needed to do what she asked to come out for, she went down into the yard and reluctantly circled if a few times and came back in.  Now she’s back in bed, dozing while I write, her had back down, ignoring the snowblower outside.

Maybe if we ignore it, it will go away.